Rabbits Giving Birth Process: What to look for and what to expect

Wondering what rabbits giving birth process looks like?

Whether you think your mother rabbit is going to give birth soon. OR you are new to raising rabbits and you are trying to get ready for an upcoming litter you are doing the right thing by trying to learn all you can.

It is going to feel scary and you will hit some bumps in the road. Just take it one step at a time and just look at everything as a learning lesson. 

No matter which direction things go just work through the problem or scenario knowing you did your best.

Rabbits can be tricky so let’s make sure (as best we can) that she is pregnant.

Signs Your Rabbit Is Pregnant

Knowing when a rabbit is pregnant is not an easy thing. Especially if it is the doe’s first time being bred. Here are the main signs of pregnancy by days after breeding.

5-7 Days after breeding: The first sign that a female rabbit is pregnant will be a change in temperament. If your rabbit had the “seasonal grouchy” before you bred her then in about 5 days to a week she should become calmer and even want more attention than normal. 

Another thing that happens with pregnant rabbits is around this same time is her belly should become more firm almost like a half-filled water balloon. 

10 Days after breeding: Not always but a pregnant doe will start to eat and want more food. If she is acting like she is starving to death and all her food is gone from the previous day give her about 1/4th more each day and see if that satisfies her. Just keep increasing it until she is happy. Ultimately let her have as much feed as she wants but the idea with adding a little more slowly is to avoid feed waste. 

14 Days after breeding: This is not easy to do and the bigger the rabbit the harder it is. Around two weeks after your rabbit is bred you should be able to feel baby rabbits that are about the size of a seeded grape. 

The thing to remember about this is the baby rabbits can be hiding up close to the momma’s spine or even low in the hips. Her turds can also be mistaken for babies as well. Personally, this is something I don’t bother with. I will know in two weeks whether or not she was pregnant so it’s less stressful to just wait it out. 

14-21 Days after breeding: Your doe’s belly should start becoming more noticeable and become wider by a very small amount. For first time does you may not even be able to tell until her last week.

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A Quick Note About False Pregnancy

This is not uncommon to have a rabbit be bred, show all the signs, and then not deliver. There can be all kinds of reasons for this to happen and it may not have been a false pregnancy. BUT most often if the breeding did not truly take, the “pregnancy” will last about 17-20 days instead of the full 31 days.

Rabbit Labor Signs

If you didn’t have an accidental breeding you should have a ballpark of when your female rabbit is due. This rabbit gestation calendar is how I find out my girl’s due dates EVERY TIME I breed them.

A rabbit’s gestation is typically 31 days. But a rabbit not kindling (giving birth) until 33 days is not unheard of.

On days 28-29 after breeding I give my does their nesting box filled with straw. 

If you didn’t know rabbits needed a nesting box the answer is a resounding YES. Read more about nesting boxes here. 

Sometimes she will jump in the box and sometimes she won’t. It’s fine either way.

48hrs BEFORE delivery: You will start to notice this with time and experience but it will look like the does belly has “dropped”. Just like a human’s muscles get loose this is their body’s way of getting ready for delivery.

It will look like there is a space between the rabbit’s belly and her lower back. See the image below? You can almost see a separation. 

24hrs before delivery: The doe will eat ALOT then seem to stop eating. Often you will find half of her food from the remaining day still in her bowl (one reason why I feed once a day at the same time every day) from the day before. 

12-24hrs before delivery: Some does will start nest building and pull fur ahead of time and put it in the nest to keep the babies warm. Sometimes it’s just a few sprigs and other times it’s quite a lot. 

Babies Coming Any Time: If your doe is up and about looking stressed, oftentimes rustling in the nest box and pulling loads of fur. You know the babies are coming anytime. Just don’t be surprised if it still takes a few hours for all of the babies to come. Sometimes it’s one right after the other and other times it takes a few hours.

Pro tip: If she has not pulled a lot of fur and the babies have arrived you can pull some from her underbelly and this should trigger her to pull more. The babies do not do well without having fur to help them stay warm.

How Long Does It Take For A Rabbit To Give Birth

If we are talking from the first signs of labor pains to delivering all of the babies. It could take just a few hours to as long as a day. 

Ideally, you don’t want to see a rabbit in labor for more than 24hrs or you could run into some kits being born dead.

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Do Rabbits Give Birth To All Babies At Once?

Some rabbits will give birth to another kit just a minute or two after the last one. BUT that is not always common. It could take as long as another hour before the next kit is born. 

But if it has been more than a 12-24hr period since the last kit was born and the doe does not look like she has settled down. Then she may have a kit stuck. 

Feeding a Pregnant Rabbit

Your doe will start to want more feed before she even delivered her litter. Let her have what she wants but also try to avoid feed waste. 

She may also seem to want more water which is totally fine. She is just drinking more which will help increase milk production.

DO NOT change brands of feed until the litter is born or until they are a week old. I have found that can cause a loss in an unborn litter.

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Space For The Doe

One key reason for having a nesting box for the litter is to give the doe a way to get away from the litter. Rabbits do not naturally stay with their litter. They feed them and make sure they are ok and leave. This is to not draw the attention of predators to their litter. 

Does should be given a safe place to escape, but also be able to return to the kits when needed. The kits should not be able to get out of the nest box until they are at least 2 weeks old. 

Age to Breed A Doe

Sexual maturity is not the same as when you should breed them. Rabbits are capable of breeding at a much younger age than most people breed them. Which is why litters should be separated no later than 14 weeks of age.

A short and sweet guide to when to breed rabbits is when they have reached the minimum senior body weights according to the ARBA standard of perfection.

  • Depending on the breed rabbits under 5 pounds standard full-grown weight could be bred as young as 6 months old. 
  • A breed that has a standard weight of 6-11 pounds full grown eight could be bred around 7-8 months of age. 
  • For giant breed rabbits like french lops or Flemish Giants should be 10 months old.

For larger breeds, they tend to mature as late as 14 months old. For french lops, I breed them between 10-12 months old but NEVER past 12 months. I have done this before due to cold weather and not being a good time to have babies and the delivery never went well for the doe or the kits. 

But on the same coin breeding them too young (I personally feel) they might not grow to their fullest potential if they are using the energy to support a litter instead of growing and filling out well.

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Signs Your Doe Is Ready For Mating

Depending on the rabbit’s breed and personality a doe will often become grouchy and even sometimes aggressive when they are ready to be bred. If you take your rabbit out of her cage or living area, put her on a table and run your fingers over her rump and she straightens out flat or even lifts her rear end. Then you know she is ready and willing to be bred.

Read this post to learn how the breeding process works and to make sure you have a successful litter.

If you are wanting to own a rabbitry and raise rabbit litters consistently throughout the year than I encourage you to keep trying and not give up. Becoming good at knowing what is going on with your pregnant rabbits right before and during delivery is hard. But you can do it.

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